China - Manchus to the Present

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012

This month the Chinese Communist Party staged the latest transition of power to a new generation of seemingly 'faceless' bureaucrats - the new Chinese Politburo.

So wither China now ?

To even begin to contemplate the possible direction that China may take it is essential to consider the tumultuous recent past of that huge country.
That recent past begins with the establishment of what is usually referred to as the Manchu Dydasty.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012


The Qing Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Qing or Great Qing, 大清 was the last imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917.
It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China.

Flag of the Empire of the Great Qing
Founded by the Manchus,  - a tribe originating in Manchuria - it was the second non-Han Chinese dynasty.
The Manchus were formerly known as Jurchen, residing in the northeastern part of the Ming territory outside the Great Wall. They emerged as the major threat to the late Ming Dynasty after Nurhaci united all Jurchen tribes and established an independent state.

The Dragon Throne
However, the Ming Dynasty would be overthrown by Li Zicheng's peasants rebellion, with Beijing captured in 1644 and the last Ming Emperor Chongzhen committing suicide.
The Manchu allied with the Ming Dynasty general Wu Sangui to seize Beijing, which was made the capital of the Qing dynasty, and then proceeded to subdue the remaining Ming's resistance in the south.
The decades of Manchu conquest caused enormous loss of lives and the economic scale of China shrank drastically. Nevertheless, the Manchus adopted the Confucian norms of traditional Chinese government in their rule and were considered a Chinese dynasty.
The Manchus enforced a 'queue order,' forcing the Han Chinese to adopt the Manchu queue hairstyle and Manchu-style clothing.
The traditional Han clothing, or Hanfu, was also replaced by Manchu-style clothing Qipao (bannermen dress and Tangzhuang).
Emperor Kangxi ordered the creation of Kangxi Dictionary, the most complete dictionary of Chinese characters ever put together at the time.
The Qing dynasty set up the "Eight Banners" system that provided the basic framework for the Qing military organization.
The bannermen were prohibited from participating in trade and manual labour unless they petitioned to be removed from banner status.
They were considered a form of nobility and were given preferential treatment in terms of annual pensions, land and allotments of cloth.

Forbidden City
Over the next half-century, all areas previously under the Ming Dynasty were consolidated under the Qing.
Xinjiang, Tibet, and Mongolia were also formally incorporated into Chinese territory.
Between 1673 and 1681, the Emperor Kangxi suppressed an uprising of three generals in Southern China who had been denied hereditary rule to large fiefdoms granted by the previous emperor; he also put down a Ming restorationist invasion from Taiwan, called the Revolt of the Three Feudatories.
In 1683, the Qing staged an amphibious assault on southern Taiwan, bringing down the rebel Grand Duchy of Tungning, which was founded by the Ming loyalist Koxinga in 1662 after the fall of the Southern Ming, and had served as a base for continued Ming resistance in Southern China.
Forbidden City - River View
By the end of Qianlong Emperor's long reign, the Qing Empire was at its zenith.
China ruled more than one-third of the world's population, and had the largest economy in the world. By area of extent, it was one of the largest empires ever in history.
In the 19th century, the empire was internally stagnated and externally threatened by imperialism.
The defeat by the British Empire in the First Opium War (1840) led to the Treaty of Nanjing (1842), under which Hong Kong was ceded and opium import was legitimized. Subsequent military defeats and unequal treaties with other imperial powers would continue even after the fall of the Qing Dynasty.
Internally, the Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864), a quasi-Christian religious movement led by the "Heavenly King" Hong Xiuquan, would raid roughly a third of Chinese territory for over a decade until they were finally crushed in the Third Battle of Nanking in 1864.
Arguably one of the largest warfares in the 19th century in terms of troops involvement, there were massive lost of lives, with a death toll of about 20 millions.
A string of rebellions would follow, which included Punti-Hakka Clan Wars, Nien Rebellion, Muslim Rebellion, and Panthay Rebellion.
Although all rebellions were eventually put down at enormous cost and casualties, the central imperial authority was seriously weakened.
In response to calamities within the empire and threats from imperialism, the Self-Strengthening Movement was an institutional reform in the second half of the 1800s.
The aim was to modernize the empire, with prime emphasis on strengthening the military. However, the reform was undermined by corrupt officials, cynicism, and quarrels within the imperial family. 
As a result, the "Beiyang Navy" were soundly defeated in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Guangxu Emperor and the reformists then launched a more comprehensive reform effort, the Hundred Day's Reform (1898), but it was shortly overturned by the conservatives under Empress Dowager Cixi in a military coup.

Execution During the Boxer Rebellion
At the turn of the 20th century, the Boxer Rebellion, also known as Boxer Uprising or 'Yihetuan Movement', was a proto-nationalist movement by the 'Righteous Harmony Society' in China between 1898 and 1901, opposing foreign imperialism and Christianity.
The uprising took place in response to foreign "spheres of influence" in China, with grievances ranging from opium traders, political invasion, economic manipulation, to missionary evangelism.
In June 1900 in Beijing, Boxer fighters threatened foreigners and forced them to seek refuge in the Legation Quarter. In response, the initially hesitant Empress Dowager Cixi, urged by the conservatives of the Imperial Court, supported the Boxers and declared war on foreign powers.
Diplomats, foreign civilians and soldiers, and Chinese Christians in the Legation Quarter were under siege by the Imperial Army of China and the Boxers for 55 days
In response, a relief expedition of the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded China to rescue the besieged foreign missions.
Consisting of British, Japanese, Russian, Italian, German, French, US and Austrian troops, the alliance defeated the Boxers and demanded further concessions from the Qing government.
The early 1900s saw increasing civil disorder, despite reform talk by Cixi and the Qing government.

(Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi)

Empress Dowager Cixi, or Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi  慈禧太后; (孝欽慈禧端佑康頤昭豫莊誠壽恭欽獻崇熙配天興聖顯皇后) (29 November 1835 – 15 November 1908), of the Manchu Yehenara clan, was a powerful and charismatic woman who unofficially but effectively controlled the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China for 47 years, from 1861 to her death in 1908.

Selected by the Xianfeng Emperor as an imperial concubine in her adolescence, she gave birth to his son, who became the Tongzhi Emperor upon Xianfeng's death.
Cixi ousted a group of regents appointed by the late emperor and assumed regency over her young son with the Empress Dowager Ci'an.
Cixi then consolidated control over the dynasty when, at the death of the Tongzhi Emperor, contrary to the rules of succession, she installed her nephew as the Guangxu Emperor in 1875. Although she refused to adopt Western models of government, she nonetheless supported the technological and military 'Self-Strengthening Movement'.
Cixi rejected the 'Hundred Days' Reforms' of 1898 as impractical and detrimental to dynastic power and placed the Guangxu Emperor under house arrest for supporting reformers.
After the Boxer Rebellion and the invasion of Allied armies, external and internal pressures led Cixi to effect institutional changes of just the sort she had resisted and appoint reform-minded officials.
Tomb of the Empress Dowager Cixi 
Empress Dowager Cixi died in the Hall of Graceful Bird at the Middle Sea 中海儀鸞殿 of Zhongnanhai on 15 November 1908, after having installed Puyi as the new Emperor of the Qing Dynasty on 14 November.
Her death came only a day after the death of the Guangxu Emperor.
The dynasty collapsed in 1912, four years after her death.
Historians both in China and abroad have generally portrayed her as a despot and villain responsible for the fall of the Dynasty, while others have suggested that her opponents among the reformers succeeded in making her a scapegoat for problems beyond her control, that she stepped in to prevent disorder, that she was no more ruthless than other rulers, and that she was even an effective if reluctant reformer in the last years of her life.The 1911 revolution overthrew the Qing's imperial rule.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012

(Aisin-Gioro Puyi)

Emperor of Manchukuo

Puyi (7 February 1906 – 17 October 1967), of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, was the last Emperor of China, and the twelfth and final ruler of the Qing Dynasty.
He ruled as the Xuantong Emperor from 1908 until his abdication on 12 February 1912.
From 1 to 12 July 1917 he was briefly restored to the throne as a nominal emperor by the warlord Zhang Xun.
The Xuantong Emperor
Chosen by Empress Dowager Cixi on her deathbed, Puyi became emperor at the age of 2 years and 10 months in December 1908 after the Guangxu Emperor died on 14 November. Titled the Xuantong Emperor, Puyi's introduction to the life of an emperor began when palace officials arrived at his family residence to take him.
His father, Prince Chun, became Prince-Regent 摄政王.
During Puyi's coronation in the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the young emperor was carried onto the throne by his father. 

Puyi did not see his biological mother, Princess Consort Chun, for the next seven years.
He developed a special bond with Wen-Chao Wang and credited her with being the only person who could control him.
She was sent away when he was eight years old.
After Puyi married, he would occasionally bring her to the Forbidden City, and later Manchukuo, to visit him.
Wherever he went, grown men would kneel down in a ritual kowtow, averting their eyes until he passed.
Soon the young Puyi discovered the absolute power he wielded over the eunuchs, and he frequently had them beaten for small transgressions.
Puyi's father, Prince Chun, served as a regent until 6 December 1911 when Empress Dowager Longyu took over in the face of the Xinhai Revolution.
Empress Dowager Longyu endorsed the "Imperial Edict of the Abdication of the Qing Emperor" 清帝退位詔書 on 12 February 1912, following the Xinhai Revolution, under a deal brokered by Yuan Shikai (a general of the Beiyang Army) with the imperial court in Beijing and the Republicans in southern China.

Signed with the new Republic of China, Puyi was to retain his imperial title and be treated by the government of the Republic with the protocol attached to a foreign monarch.
Puyi and the imperial court were allowed to remain in the northern half of the Forbidden City (the Private Apartments) as well as in the Summer Palace.
A hefty annual subsidy of four million silver taels was granted by the Republic to the imperial household, although it was never fully paid, and was abolished after just a few years.

Flag of Manchukuo
On 1 March 1932, Puyi was installed by the Japanese as the ruler of Manchukuo, a puppet state of the Empire of Japan, under the reign title Datong 大同.
In 1934, he was officially crowned the emperor of Manchukuo under the reign title Kangde 康德.
However, he resented being "Head of State" and then "Emperor of Manchukuo" rather than being fully restored as a Qing Emperor.
Puyi lived in a palace in this period.At his enthronement he clashed with Japan over dress; they wanted him to wear a Manchukuo-style uniform whereas he considered it an insult to wear anything but traditional Manchu robes. In a typical compromise, he wore a Western military uniform to his enthronement (the only Chinese emperor ever to do so) and a dragon robe to the announcement of his accession at the Temple of Heaven.
Puyi's younger full brother Pujie, who married Lady Hiro Saga, a distant cousin to the Japanese Emperor Hirohito, was proclaimed heir apparent.
The marriage had been politically arranged by Shigeru Honjō, a general of the Kwantung Army.
From 1935 to 1945 Kwantung Army senior staff officer Yoshioka Yasunori 吉岡安則 was assigned to Puyi as Attaché to the Imperial Household in Manchukuo.
There were many attempts on Puyi's life during this period, including a 1937 stabbing by a palace servant.
Puyi's was feted by the Japanese populace during his visits to Japan, but had to remain subservient to Emperor Hirohito.
During these years, Puyi began taking a greater interest in traditional Chinese law and religion (such as Confucianism and Buddhism). Gradually his old supporters were eliminated and pro-Japanese ministers put in their place.
During this period Puyi's life consisted mostly of signing laws prepared by Japan, reciting prayers, consulting oracles, and making formal visits throughout his state.
At the end of World War II, Puyi was captured by the Soviet Red Army on 16 August 1945.
The Soviets took him to the Siberian town of Chita.
He lived in a sanatorium, then later taken to Khabarovsk near the Chinese border.
In 1946, he testified at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo.
When the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong came to power in 1949, Puyi was repatriated to China after negotiations between the Soviet Union and China.
Except for a period during the Korean War, when he was moved to Harbin, Puyi spent ten years in the Fushun War Criminals Management Centre in Liaoning province until he was declared 'reformed'.
Puyi came to Peking in 1959 with special permission from Chairman Mao Zedong, and lived the next six months in an ordinary Peking residence with his sister before being transferred to a government-sponsored hotel.
He worked at the Peking Botanical Gardens.
At the age of 56, he married Li Shuxian, a hospital nurse, on 30 April 1962, in a ceremony held at the Banquet Hall of the Consultative Conference.
He subsequently worked as an editor for the literary department of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, - an office in which he served from 1964 until his death in 1967.

Puyi's abdication in 1912 marked the end of millennia of dynastic rule in China and thus he is known throughout the world by the sobriquet "The Last Emperor".

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012

(Chunghwa Minkuo)

Frustrated by the Qing court's resistance to reform and by China's weakness, young officials, military officers, and students began to advocate the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the creation of a republic.
They were inspired by the revolutionary ideas of Sun Yat-sen.
When Sun Yat-sen was asked by one of the leading revolutionary generals to what he ascribed the success, he said, "To Christianity more than to any other single cause.
Along with its ideals of religious freedom, and along with these it inculcates everywhere a doctrine of universal love and peace.
These ideals appeal to the Chinese; they largely caused the Revolution, and they largely determined its peaceful character."
Flag of the Republic of China - 1912-1928 
The Republic of China (Zhōnghuá Mínguó) was founded in 1912, and its government was located on mainland China until 1949, when it lost the Chinese Civil War and withdrew to Taiwan.
As an era of Chinese history, the republic was preceded by the Qing Dynasty and followed by the People's Republic of China.
Its first president was 孫文 / 孫逸仙 - Sun Yat-sen.
As the foremost pioneer of Republic of China, Sun is referred to as the "Father of the Nation" in the Republic of China (ROC), and the "forerunner of democratic revolution" in the People's Republic of China.

孫文 / 孫逸仙 Sun Yat-sen
Sun played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty during the 'Double Ten Revolution'.
Although he was in St. Louis, Missouri (?) at the time, he was appointed to serve as president of the Provisional Republic of China, when it was founded in 1912.
He later co-founded the Kuomintang (KMT), serving as its first leader.
Sun was a uniting figure in post-Imperial China, and remains unique among 20th-century Chinese politicians for being widely revered amongst the people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Although Sun is considered one of the greatest leaders of modern China, his political life was one of constant struggle and frequent exile.
After the success of the revolution, he quickly fell out of power in the newly founded Republic of China, and led successive revolutionary governments as a challenge to the warlords who controlled much of the nation. Sun did not live to see his party consolidate its power over the country during the Northern Expedition.
His party, which formed a fragile alliance with the Communists, split into two factions after his death.
Sun's chief legacy resides in his developing of the political philosophy known as the 'Three Principles of the People': nationalism, democracy, and the people's livelihood.

His Kuomintang (KMT, or "Nationalist Party"), then led by Song Jiaoren, won a parliamentary election held in December 1912.
Beiyang Government - National Emblem
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012
However, army leaders of the Beiyang clique, led by President Yuan Shikai, retained control of the central government.
After Yuan's death in 1916, various local military leaders, or warlords, asserted autonomy.
In 1919, the 'May Fourth Movement' began as a response to the terms imposed on China by the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, but quickly became a protest movement about the domestic situation in China.
The discrediting of liberal Western philosophy amongst Chinese intellectuals was followed by the adoption of more radical lines of thought.
This in turn planted the seeds for the irreconcilable conflict between the left and right in China that would dominate Chinese history for the rest of the century.
In the 1920s, Sun Yat-Sen established a revolutionary base in south China, and set out to unite the fragmented nation.
In 1925, the KMT established a rival government, referred to as Nationalist China, in the southern city of Canton, now Guangzhou.
The economy of the North, overtaxed to support warlord adventurism, collapsed in 1927–1928. In 1928, Chiang Kai-shek, who became KMT leader after Sun's death, defeated the warlord armies in the Northern Expedition.
Chiang's National Revolutionary Army was armed by the Soviet Union and was advised by Mikhail Borodin.
The Beiyang army was backed by Japan.
Once Chiang established a unified central government in Nanjing, he cut his ties with the communists and expelled them from the KMT.
With assistance from the Soviet Union (themselves fresh from a socialist uprising), he entered into an alliance with the fledgling Communist Party of China.
After Sun's death in 1925, one of his protégés, Chiang Kai-shek, seized control of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party or KMT) and succeeded in bringing most of south and central China under its rule in a military campaign known as the Northern Expedition (1926–1927). Having defeated the warlords in south and central China by military force, Chiang was able to secure the nominal allegiance of the warlords in the North.
In 1927, Chiang turned on the CPC and relentlessly chased the CPC armies and its leaders from their bases in southern and eastern China.
In 1934, driven from their mountain bases such as the Chinese Soviet Republic, the CPC forces embarked on the 'Long March' across China's most desolate terrain to the northwest, where they established a guerrilla base at Yan'an in Shaanxi Province.
During the 'Long March', the communists reorganized under a new leader, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung).
There was industrialization and modernization, but also conflict between the Nationalist government in Nanjing, the Communist Party of China, remnant warlords, and Japan.
Nation-building took a back-seat to war with Japan in 1937 – 1945.
Japan occupied coastal areas and cut off China's access to seaports, while the KMT retreated to Chongqing.
The Burma Road, and later the Ledo Road, were built to allow US "lend-lease" aid to reach the Chinese army.
The Nationalists' Y Force drove back the Japanese in Yunnan during a May–June 1944 offensive, but otherwise military results were disappointing.
After Japan surrendered, the 'Cold War' between the U.S. and Soviet Union the war between the KMT and the CPC resumed, after failed attempts at reconciliation and a negotiated settlement.
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall - Taipei
By 1949, the CPC had established control over most of the country.
When Chiang was defeated by CPC forces in mainland China in 1949, he retreated to Taiwan with his government and his most disciplined troops, along with most of the KMT leadership and a large number of their supporters; Chiang Kai-shek had taken effective control of Taiwan at the end of WWII as part of the overall Japanese surrender, when Japanese troops in Taiwan surrendered to Republic of China troops.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012


Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with Kuomintang (KMT) pulling out of the mainland, with the government relocating to Taipei and maintaining control only over a few islands.
毛泽东 - Mao Zedong
The Communist Party of China was left in control of mainland China.
On 1 October 1949, 毛泽东 - Mao Zedong - proclaimed the People's Republic of China. "Communist China" and "Red China" were two common names for the PRC.
The PRC was shaped by a series of campaigns and five-year plans, with mixed success.
The economic and social plan known as the Great Leap Forward resulted in an estimated 45 million deaths.
In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the 'Cultural Revolution', which would last until Mao's death a decade later.
The Cultural Revolution, motivated by power struggles within the Party and a fear of the Soviet Union, led to a major upheaval in Chinese society.
In 1972, at the peak of the Sino-Soviet split, Mao and Zhou Enlai met Richard Nixon in Beijing to establish relations with the United States.
In the same year, the PRC was admitted to the United Nations in place of the Republic of China for China's membership of the United Nations, and permanent membership of the Security Council.
A power struggle followed Mao's death in 1976.
The 'Gang of Four' were arrested and blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, marking the end of a turbulent political era in China.
Deng Xiaoping outmaneuvered Mao's anointed successor chairman Hua Guofeng, and gradually emerged as the de facto leader over the next few years.
Deng Xiaoping was the Paramount Leader of China from 1978 to 1992, although he never became the head of the party or state, and his influence within the Party led the country to significant economic reforms.
The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives and the communes were disbanded with many peasants receiving multiple land leases, which greatly increased incentives and agricultural production.
This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment, a system termed by some as "market socialism", and officially by the Communist Party of China as "Socialism with Chinese characteristics".
The PRC adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982.
In 1989, the death of former general secretary Hu Yaobang helped to spark the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, during which students and others campaigned for several months, speaking out against corruption and in favour of greater political reform, including democratic rights and freedom of speech.
However, they were eventually put down on 4 June when PLA troops and vehicles entered and forcibly cleared the square, resulting in numerous casualties.
This event was widely reported and brought worldwide condemnation and sanctions against the government.
The "Tank Man" incident in particular became famous.
CPC General Secretary and PRC President Jiang Zemin and PRC Premier Zhu Rongji, both former mayors of Shanghai, led post-Tiananmen PRC in the 1990s.
Under Jiang and Zhu's ten years of administration, the PRC's economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty and sustained an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of 11.2%.
The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Although the PRC needs economic growth to spur its development, the government has begun to worry that rapid economic growth has negatively impacted the country's resources and environment.
Another concern is that certain sectors of society are not sufficiently benefiting from the PRC's economic development; one example of this is the wide gap between urban and rural areas.

The world’s second largest economy ushered in a new political era as China’s Communist Party unveiled its new commander-in-chief and elite ruling council.
After months of speculation and secretive, behind-the-scenes horse-trading, the seven new members of China’s top governing body, the Politburo Standing Committee, filed onto a stage inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
This is only the second peaceful transition of power since 1949.

Communist Chins'a New Leaders
59-year-old Xi Jinping, is the new chairman of the 82 million-member Chinese Communist  Party, and the man who should take over as president next March.
Xi JinpingAddressing vowed to “take up the historic baton and continue working for the great renewal of the Chinese nation. We will do everything we can to live up to your trust and to fulfill our mission. This is a major responsibility we owe to the people. My responsibility is to rally and lead the whole country.”
Li Keqiang is expected to become prime minister.
The remaining five members of the Standing Committee, which decides all major policy are: Wang Qishan, a financial expert and the new head of China’s anti-corruption body, Yu Zhengsheng, Shanghai’s party chief, Zhang Dejiang, who replaced disgraced politician Bo Xilai as party boss in Chongqing, Zhang Gaoli, the party chief of Tianjin, and Liu Yunshan, a former journalist and propaganda chief.
Welcoming his six “comrades” onto the stage, Mr Xi said China’s new leaders would battle to improve people’s lives and not to lose touch with the population.
China’s new leaders faced “severe” challenges, he admitted, including a difficult fight against rampant corruption.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012